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3 Tips for Perfect Matte Lips

Get soft, luscious matte lips without dryness or discomfort.

As far as lipsticks go, matte formulas are a double-edged sword. Done right, the look is chic and understated, showing off the natural shapeliness of your lips. Done wrong, lips become cracked and uneven, showing off a mouth of dried, tinted flakes.

So obviously you’re going for the former, right?

Satin, cream, and shimmer lipstick formulas contain emollients and other ingredients that have a key side benefit of moisturizing lips and making them feel smoother and plumper. Matte formulas don’t have all those softening ingredients, so they’re harder to apply, wearing them tends to make lips feel drier, and they’re more likely to feather on already-dry skin.

But it doesn’t have to be this way! Matte lipstick may not have a ton of moisture on its own, but you can add enough before and after to get a great matte look anytime.

Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate
Before applying any matte lipstick, start with well-scrubbed and thoroughly exfoliated lips, so you have the smoothest canvas to work on. Using your fingers, apply a pea-sized amount of a grainy lip scrub in small circles, buffing off dry patches and roughness. A scrub like Bliss Fabulips Sugar Lip Scrub ($18 at Sephora) contains shea butter and cocoa butter to nourish, too. If you wear matte lipstick regularly, scrubbing your lips should become part of your nightly regimen.

Choose Your Chappy Wisely
When lips are well-moisturized, lipstick glides on more easily and wears longer—just two of many reasons why it’s a good idea to always carry a lip conditioner and use it liberally, whether you’re wearing makeup or not.

But all tubes and tubs are not created equally. Oil-based products like Vaseline or ChapStick are great on their own, but they tend to be too greasy to wear underneath lipstick—the lipstick ends up slipping off. Pick a creamy one like Carmex Lip Conditioner ($1.99 at drugstores) that weightlessly disappears into lips and apply it a few minutes before your lipstick, giving it some time to sink in.

Tint, Stain, Pencil, or Stick?
A great choice for everyday wear is a matte lip tint, which often comes in the form of a chubby pencil and is softer and creamier than a traditional lipstick. Try Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil ($24 at Sephora), which can even be layered under another lipstick to add staying power. Light shades like nudes and dusky pinks can be applied using the pencil, but for dark reds and plums, get a sharper line by using a lip brush.

If lips feel dried-out or uncomfortable after a few hours, apply a dab of your creamy lip conditioner to the center of your lips and rub together. The added moisture will plump up lips without adding shine or sheen. 

Allison Ford

Allison is a writer and editor who specializes in beauty, style, entertainment, and pop culture. She was part of the editorial team at DivineCaroline (now for more than three years. She loves makeup, sparkly accessories, giraffes, brunch, Matt Damon, New York City, and ice cream.

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